Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Teachers and parents must do more to prevent crime, British police watchdog says

Teachers and parents must do more to instill what is right and wrong in children, a police watchdog warned as he accused public services of “abdicating” their duties to prevent crime.

Tom Winsor, the Chief Inspector of Constabulary, said too many bodies, such as education, health and social services, are happy to leave problem to a police service that can “never say no”.

He said crime prevention was the obligation of everyone in society and that schools and families had a responsibility to ensure children became law-abiding citizens.

In his first speech since taking on the role last year, Mr Winsor, a former rail regulator, revealed that police were using technology that was “next to useless” and was hampering their ability to fight crime.

He said it was “remarkable” that officers had to use “rudimentary and primitive” equipment in the modern age and called for urgent action.

He also warned that police forces would have to privatise more of their services if they are to protect the front line in the face of budget cuts.

Speaking at the Royal United Services Institute (Rusi), Mr Winsor said crime prevention should be the priority for police but that it was not the sole responsibility of officers.

He said: "Parents and families, as well as schools and other educational institutions, must instill in children a strong appreciation of right and wrong."

"Prevention is also an obligation of health professionals, particularly in the field of mental health where undiagnosed or untreated illness can, as we know, lead to the commission of serious violent crime."

He added: “And the quality of interaction and cooperation between the wider public and protective services, including social services, health and education, needs to be improved, with each service fully and properly discharging its responsibilities rather than abdicating duty in favour of the one public service which will never say no.”

Mr Winsor said dealing with mental health issues was the biggest frustration for officers.

He also attacked the state of "slow and patchy" technology among police forces.  One officer used a personal digital assistant device, which Mr Winsor said he had not seen "in 10 years".  "It was next to useless," he added.

Speaking afterwards, he said that police officers would often put their own hi-tech smart phone in their locker when they put on their uniform and then go out with some “antiquated and primitive” device.

He also warned that police forces would have to consider more collaborations with each other and with the private sector in the face of cuts if they want to protect front line policing.

He said the provision to forces from the private sector and other public bodies would have to “increase markedly” for efficiencies to be found.

"Forces and police and crime commissioners will, as a matter of necessity, need to find new ways of exploiting opportunities to save money while maintaining operational integrity and increasing effectiveness,” he said.

He went on: "However big a force may be, it has neighbours, and offenders of course do not respect police force boundaries."

He added that "a police force which takes an isolationist view is not operating efficiently".


End of a cushy life in British prisons: Convicts 'will be denied Sky Sports and 18-rated DVDs'

Prisoners will be forced to work to end the culture of  ‘holiday camp’ jails.  They will also be denied access to Sky Sports and 18-rated DVDs and will no longer win privileges simply for keeping out of trouble.

Instead, offenders will start their life behind bars adhering to a spartan regime, wearing prison uniform and having to earn any perks.

Only by hard work or study will they be allowed television, full access to the gym, the right to wear their own clothes and to be able to spend any money they earn in the prison shop.

Inmates who wreck cells, start fires or damage prison property will be forced to pay compensation.

Announcing the shake-up in an interview with the Daily Mail yesterday, prisons minister Jeremy Wright said: ‘Prison is there to punish, it’s not there to be comfortable.

‘It’s there to be somewhere you don’t want to go back to and what we are doing in changing the regime is to make sure that message is there and heard loud and clear.

‘But it’s also a place where we expect rehabilitation to happen. We expect people to do those things that make it less likely when they come out that they reoffend.’

Inmates used to get full entitlements simply by avoiding violence; if you ‘kept your nose clean and didn’t punch the officers’, said Mr Wright.

But, in future, offenders will go on a new entry regime for the first fortnight of their sentence, during which they will have to wear uniform and be denied TV and use of the shop.

They will be required to join a work programme, education or drug rehabilitation course or some other purposeful activity. To mirror life outside, the ‘working day’ in prison will be extended to 9am to 5pm. If prisoners fail to comply with the new rules, they will be left on the ‘Basic’ new entry regime.

The changes follow a review ordered by Justice Secretary Chris Grayling, who has criticised the ‘frills’ available to prisoners but unaffordable for ordinary families.

The ‘Incentives and Earned Privileges’ scheme will mean inmates no longer languish in their cells watching television.

They will be expected to ‘engage in their own rehabilitation’, Mr Wright said, in the hope fewer inmates offend when they get out. ‘Most people would expect that prisoners were engaged in work or purposeful activity when they are in prison and aren’t sitting around watching television.

‘We are going to expect prisoners to play their part and if they don’t they won’t be getting the privileges that previously they have had. If you show no willingness to engage with the regime, no willingness to engage in your own rehabilitation you will go down to basic.

‘If you don’t want to bother, if you don’t want to go to work, if you don’t want to go to education, if you don’t want to do the drug treatment that has been recommended for you, you will stay on basic, you will stay in the prison clothes, you will stay without a television and the money you have access to will be limited.

‘The choice is in your own hands.’

From the end of next month, 18-rated DVDs will join extreme video games in being banned in all jails.

Sky Sports and other subscription channels, which are permitted in private prisons, will be switched off permanently during the summer.

‘We just don’t think it’s right that prisoners should have access to subscription TV channels,’ said Mr Wright. ‘We don’t think it’s right because there are plenty of my constituents who struggle to afford those things and they don’t see, and I don’t see, why prisoners should get them.’

An enhanced regime will exist for convicts who show good behaviour and ‘give something back’. This could include higher spending limits.

He said prisoners shouldn’t be able to damage property ‘without consequences’ and officials would claw back the cash.

The announcement was condemned last night by Frances Crook of the Howard League for Penal Reform. She said: ‘The fact the prison population has doubled in the past 20 years has left prisons overcrowded and staff overstretched, with little choice but to lock people up in their cells all day with nothing to do.’


Huge benefits shake-up to make sure work always pays gets underway as Labour finally admits it is a 'sensible idea'

Labour signalled an embarrassing climbdown over welfare reform yesterday, as the biggest ever shake-up in the benefits system got under way.

In a surprise move, shadow work and pensions secretary Liam Byrne indicated his party now backed the introduction of the new universal credit system, designed to ensure it always pays for people on benefits to go back to work or accept extra hours.

Labour voted against the scheme when it was debated by Parliament last year. But yesterday Mr Byrne said the universal credit system was a ‘fine idea’, albeit one with some details still to be ironed out.

Shadow employment minister Stephen Timms also said the scheme was a ‘sensible’ idea which would ‘potentially simplify’ the benefits system. The climbdown came as the huge change was launched yesterday with a modest pilot scheme in Ashton-under-Lyne, Greater Manchester.

Fresh claimants will be required to sign up to the new system, which will see them receive a single benefit payment linked to their income.

Ministers believe the system will make it much easier for people to see that they would be better off in employment. Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith hailed the new system as ‘nothing less than the start of a fundamental cultural shift of the welfare system’.

He dismissed Labour claims that the system was suffering from delays, insisting it would be rolled out in full by 2017 as planned. But the tiny scale of the pilot scheme suggests ministers have been warned the system is likely to suffer numerous teething problems before it is extended to handle millions of benefits claims.

Universal credit will replace a string of working age benefits – including jobseekers’ allowance, working tax credits and housing benefit – into a single monthly payment.

Ministers had once suggested that as many as a million claimants could be on the new system in the first 12 months. But the pilot scheme, which will run for six months, is expected to handle about 7,000 claims.

The new scheme has been dogged by persistent reports of problems with the complex IT system needed to ensure millions of benefit recipients receive the right amount of money.

Mr Duncan Smith also rejected criticism that the system, which has to be accessed online, would be too difficult for some benefit claimants.

He said extra help would be given to the 20 per cent of benefit claimants who do not use the internet, adding that computer skills were essential for anyone looking for a job. ‘Ninety-six per cent of all jobs now require some kind of computer interface, so that means if you cannot go onto a computer you will only be able to apply for 4 per cent of the jobs in Britain.

Labour said the new system was causing ‘confusion and delay’. Mr Timms insisted the party had always supported the basic principle, despite voting against it.


Neil has an IQ of 125 and runs his own business. So why won't a secret court let him spend his own money?

Neil Barker is, in many ways, a lucky man. At 36, he has a loving girlfriend, Valeria, a five-bedroom house overlooking the park in a smart West London suburb — and he’s made a dramatic recovery from a motorbike crash ten years ago which left him with brain injuries.

All he wants to do is to get on with his life  as a successful computer consultant and  property restorer — without interference from the State.

But a huge sum of his money is lying in a State bank account controlled by a hidden corner of the legal system: the astonishingly powerful Court of Protection, which has decreed that Neil’s accident means he lacks the mental capacity to handle his own financial affairs.

Neil, who is chatty and clearly lucid, told me last week: ‘It is very stressful to be told by the State that I am not able to make decisions about my own money or investments, especially when that is untrue and I have recovered my health.

‘I was given £1.8 million in compensation by the insurance company after my accident. A lot of that has been frittered away over time by the Court of Protection and I am powerless to do anything to stop it.’

His story is shocking. But Neil is just one of thousands of people whose financial assets are being managed by the Court of Protection (CoP), which was set up by New Labour’s 2005 Mental Capacity Act to make decisions for ill, confused or elderly people deemed to lack the ability to do so for themselves.

The CoP has draconian and sweeping powers. Judges, sitting alone and in secrecy, deal with thousands of cases a year, making far-reaching rulings about almost every aspect of citizens’ lives — and often those of their relatives, too.

They can compel people to undergo surgery, use contraception or have abortions.

They can decide if a life-support system is switched off, where a person lives and with whom — even if their marriage should be annulled and whether their last will and testament is torn up.

Equally controversially, the CoP judges can authorise what are called Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (DOLS), which allow council or NHS officials to restrain someone in a hospital, care home or re-training facility for as long as the State deems it to be ‘in their best interests’.

The Lib Dem MP John Hemming, who is campaigning for more openness in the CoP,  estimates that there are hundreds of these ‘secret prisoners’ across the country.

And while it might seem essential to have a court taking decisions to protect the vulnerable, the secrecy with which the CoP operates — with the public barred from hearings and the Press forbidden from identifying people involved in cases — is deeply disturbing.

Individuals who have disobeyed the court’s rulings or spoken out about what has happened to them or their relatives — even to their local MP — have been threatened with, or sent to, prison.

A legal expert who regularly attends CoP hearings says that the numbers imprisoned for falling foul of the court in the past five years may run into hundreds.

Just last week, the Mail revealed the case of Wanda Maddocks, who was sentenced to five months in prison by the CoP when she objected to her father, John, being sent to a care home against her will.  She has been able to reveal her story only because her father has died.

There is another power of this court that is also highly contentious. Astonishingly, £2 billion of vulnerable  people’s money is now under the  control of the CoP.

This enormous sum is held by another State offshoot, the Court Funds Office (CFO), which has the role of ‘providing a safe place’ for the funds.

Extraordinarily, as I have discovered, the money is in fact being used to help reduce our national debt  figure.

The CFO has sent the £2 billion to the UK Debt Management Office, an agency of the Treasury, where the funds are set against the billions that this country owes.

Furthermore, the life savings of those suffering from dementia, incapacitating diseases, or even old age — as well as people like Neil Barker, who have received accident compensation pay-outs and are deemed unable to run their financial affairs — are paid a paltry interest rate for the use of their money by the State: currently 0.5 per cent, just a third of the rate paid by National Savings.

Understandably, many of those who are caught up in the system object that they are left badly out-of-pocket.

Some families find that even though the CoP is in charge of their loved ones’ multi-million-pound negligence or accident awards, the money is not earning enough interest to cover their needs — even though its investment is meant to fund a lifetime of care.

Once the COP decides a person is incapable of handling their finances, a so-called deputy is appointed to make day-to-day decisions about their money.

The deputy is appointed by the judge and can be a family member. If no relative is suitable, then the court will choose a local authority representative, often a social worker, or a solicitor to carry out the task.

Many families are left in the unenviable position of having to ask the officially appointed deputy for money to care for their loved ones — and appeal to the CoP if they disagree with the decision.

Needless to say, thousands have complained about the court since 2007, when it began operations.

There are allegations of its officials — including some deputies — charging exorbitant fees, over-riding the wishes of relatives, frittering away money, raiding the elderly’s homes searching for documents and intercepting personal emails.

In a depressingly typical case, children’s author Heather Bateman was forced to seek permission from the court to use family funds after an accident left her journalist husband Michael in a coma.

She wrote a moving account of her family’s ordeal in Saga magazine: ‘Michael and I were two independent working people.

'We had been married for 28 years. We had separate bank accounts and most of the bills were paid from Michael’s account.

‘Now, to continue living the way we had always done, I needed to access the money in his account.

'The Court of Protection brought almost as much anger, grief and frustration into my life as the accident itself.

'It is an alien, intrusive, time-consuming and costly institution, which was completely out of tune with what we were going through. It ruled my waking moments and my many sleepless nights.’

Mrs Bateman even had to apply to the court for permission to pay the couple’s daughter’s university fees.

‘I could write as many cheques as I wanted up to £500. But if I needed more, I had to ask the permission of the court.’

Fury over the CoP has erupted on social networking sites and on help forums set up by charities.

Only recently the Alzheimer’s Society received this heartbreaking plea for help: ‘My family is having severe problems with a solicitor who has been appointed by the CoP as deputy for my mother of 87, who unfortunately suffers from dementia.

‘They have managed to make a complete mess of my mother’s affairs. She had capital of £40,000 and income of £850 a month.

'Her expenditure (predominantly on carers) was approximately £2,500 a month, meaning that, by now, she should have £27,000 of her capital left.

‘However, we are in a situation where her bank account is overdrawn. There are unpaid bills and direct debits.

'The carers have not been paid so, understandably, some are reluctant to continue working. This means my mother is not receiving the care she needs.

‘We are at our wits’ end, trying to find out why there is no money to meet her obligations. What really frightens me is what would happen to someone with no family to support them?’

This family is not alone. Stories of incompetence and even possible fraud have emerged in blogs and forums about the CoP.

In particular, there are tales of exorbitant fees charged by deputies. One retired lawyer was asked for £4,100 in fees to withdraw £5,800 of her own money.

In another case, the proceeds of the sale of a house, authorised by the CoP deputy, were paid into the wrong account.

And one family was charged £42,000 in fees for the legal paperwork to transfer a sick  daughter’s care to her mother after the father died.

But not all the grievances are about money. Take the case which emerged last year of pensioners Norman Davies and Peggy Ross, who were looking forward to going on their annual cruise when Cardiff Council intervened.

The council argued that it was not in the ‘best interests’ of 82-year-old Mrs Ross, who has dementia and lives in a care home, to go on the holiday.

Mrs Ross’s social worker decided the pensioner lacked the capacity to make a decision about whether she should go on the £3,200 cruise because ‘her ideas were not based in reality’.

She said the council was worried that Mrs Ross might wander off on the ship or fall overboard.

Just before the holiday, the council went to the CoP to obtain a DOLS to prevent Mrs Ross leaving her care home.

The judge, to his credit, refused to make the order, which has allowed details of the case to become public. The couple duly enjoyed a 16-day cruise around the Mediterranean.
The Lib Dem MP John Hemming is campaigning for more openness in the Court of Protection and estimates there are hundreds of 'secret prisoners' across the country

The Lib Dem MP John Hemming is campaigning for more openness in the Court of Protection and estimates there are hundreds of 'secret prisoners' across the country

However, lawyers and MPs have said it illustrates how the CoP is being used by council apparatchiks — social workers and care home workers, in particular — to  meddle with and control people’s lives.

Mr Davies, a lucid 81-year-old former engineer, who lives near Newport, said after the holiday: ‘They tried to strip Peggy of her rights completely. The whole thing was disgusting from start to finish.’

He is not the only person to think that of the CoP. At one recent hearing, a desperate mother asked the court to allow the life-support machine keeping her brain- damaged daughter alive to be switched off.

As is standard in the court, the daughter was referred to only by the letter ‘M’ to protect her identity.

But the judge also issued a Draconian injunction imposing secrecy for as long as  ‘M’ lived.

The ruling barred the media or anyone interested in the case from approaching a list of 65 people who play, or had played, some part in the girl’s life.

And it stifled any reasonable debate on the moral issues of the case and stopped her own family publicly expressing their views on what should happen or why.

The injunction made clear that those who made such inquiries, apart from to the solicitors of ‘M’, would be sent to prison or have their assets seized as a punishment.

This would probably not come as a surprise to Neil Barker. He says his life is being ruined by the CoP and that the court has lost him thousands of pounds.

This week, he told me that, after his motorbike crash in April 2003, he struggled to carry out everyday tasks because of a brain injury. Even going to the shops to buy groceries was a major challenge.

His family, to whom he is still close, were worried that he would not be able to manage his own money.

And when he won £1.8 million in a personal injury claim after the accident, they agreed that Neil’s pay-out should be placed in a CoP-controlled account.

A solicitor from the firm which dealt with the injury claim was appointed as his deputy by the CoP to make financial decisions on his behalf.

Neil says: ‘I thought at the time it would be nice not to worry about money, that it would be like an ordinary bank account with added security. But I was wrong.

‘Now I have made a full recovery, but the CoP refuses to let go.

'I have trained as a computer engineer. I have renovated a house successfully and sold it for a profit.

'I am well enough to run my own business, to manage my own finances, but I am not being allowed to do so by this court and the deputy.’

Neil explains that his own home was bought with £1.2 million from his pay-out — money the CoP agreed to release for the purchase.
Judges at the Court of Protection sit alone and in secrecy making decisions about almost every aspect of citizens' lives

Judges at the Court of Protection sit alone and in secrecy making decisions about almost every aspect of citizens' lives

But he adds: ‘The rest of the funds have been allowed to dwindle away. The interest rate on the money at the Bank of England account is so low that I estimate I have lost £75,000 over the years.’

At one stage — before the banking collapse and interest rates fell — Neil discovered that the bank where he was fixing the computers would have paid him eight times more in interest than what he was receiving from the CoP account.

That is not his only grievance. During his fight to free himself — and his money — from the clutches of the CoP, he has undergone a series of independent medical examinations which, he claims, prove he has fully recovered from his brain injury.

The DVLA has also tested his  driving and found him completely capable of driving a car. The cost of £4,500 for these checks had to be paid for by Neil himself.

Yet, still the CoP and the deputy have prevaricated and refused to release his money.

‘The most recent medical tests were two years ago by an eminent doctor who said I was like any other normal person,’ says Neil now. ‘My IQ was found to be more than 125, which is well above average.’

Speaking with the permission of his solicitor this week — who says his story is in the public domain because of a BBC interview he gave two years ago — Neil added, with some anger: ‘I am quite capable of managing my financial affairs, yet I am still being told by the court and the deputy that it is not the case.

'I am continuing my fight and I am starting legal proceedings against the CoP.’

It will be an epic battle, but one that most people in Britain must surely hope he wins.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the  incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of  other countries.  The only real difference, however, is how much power they have.  In America, their power is limited by democracy.  To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already  very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges.  They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did:  None.  So look to the colleges to see  what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way.  It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH,   EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICSDISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL  and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine).   My Home Pages are here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here


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